Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sheridan Le Fanu

I read a lot of books. I mean alot of books. And many of those have to do with ghosts, monsters, and the supernatural. Not all of them are about Appalachian or West Virginia's ghosts, and I have found that there are many of the ghost/monster genre that I enjoy.

Lately I've been reading the works of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873). I found a copy of this on sale in the book outlet in Flatwoods, WV in the outlet mall there. In addition to this book, I also bought one about John Henry which I have yet to read, but it is on the list. With the onset of this hellish winter, I'm certain I will have more time to read. This work, entitled Madam Crowl's Ghost & Other Stories, is the book I speak of.

The collection's namesake, Madam Crowl's Ghost, is a rather disturbing tale about a young English servant girl who goes to wait on a wealthy old dowager lady who lives in a large country house in England. When Madam Crowl (the wealthy dowager) passes on, she returns to reveal a ghastly secret about her former home.

Other stories, such as The White Cat of Drumgunniol, is reminiscent of the "black dog" stories told throughout Appalachia. It is the tale of a white cat that is like a banshee, appearing to those who are about to die. This type of story shows there is still a connection between the old and new worlds- through stories!

Speaking of connections, the last part of the book tells the ghost stories that surround the Bailey family of Ireland. That family name is a common one in West Virginia. The stories of the Bailey's involve a wizard, a sunken castle, a banshee, and other ghostly/supernatural entities - even a redcap!

Sheridan Le Fanu was a contemporary of the literary ghost/monster story greats of English literature. His works influenced many other authors of his age, including Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe. Although he is lesser well known, his works are nonetheless great in my opinion as an aficionado of ghost/monster tales.

So if you are looking for a good book to read by the fire this winter, and you don't mind a slight scare, pick up this book. I took a chance and discovered an author who really can spin a yarn.